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      Anne Hogue-Boucher: 

Now Entering Silver Hollow.       

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£11.44

          

Perdition is defined as a state of damnation. The word is mentioned several times in this interesting, readable and original debut from Hogue-Boucher.  There are few happy endings in the stories that are collected in Now Entering Silver Hollow.   The truth is that we are all damned and for no other reason than we are human.  Damnation awaits us all despite the efforts we make.  Innocent and not so innocent groping towards relief and oblivion tempts doom.  If that sounds too gloomy for some then those people just do not have a sense of humour or at least the sensibility that finds horror fiction satisfying.   Houge-Boucher describes Now Entering Silver Hollow as a composite novel.  The dozen stories are linked by spooky old Dubbs House.  Characters are mentioned in more than one story, and it all links rather well.  At times the prose is perhaps overdone but that is to be expected from a debut novel by an independent author.  And if excess is permissible anywhere then it is in the horror genre but more important as mitigation is the scale, scope and ambition of Now Entering Silver Hollow.  The tales are independent but connected, and that permits additional emphasis.

Hogue-Boucher mentions Shirley Jackson and H P Lovecraft as influences but the book has a range of narrators and it adopts various narrative styles.   Wilkie Collins and Conan Doyle are also amongst the ghosts that shape a complex collection.  The narrators of the individual stories range from the demented and alienated, like the headache-cursed bus driver and emotionally damaged wife, to those who have technical authority, the historians and psychologists who make an attempt at a rational explanation.  Characterisation is also solid.   The 572 pages in the book allow for all the characters to have substance, and each has a life that impacts on others.  Hogue-Boucher captures the social and psychological fecundity of a typical small town American community.

But Dubbs House and its secrets and really unpleasant threats dominate the book.  The house is a reminder that places have their own independent history and contain traps beyond our understanding. Although very different from The Haunting by Shirley Jackson, No Entering Silver Hollow is like a collection of prequels and sequels to that book.  Revealed is not just a haunted house but also its full perverted history.  The more we know the more complex is the mystery.  Some characters think they can defy the power of the house while others stumble into its grip.  Willpower and drive have their compensations but no one ever understands what is happening to them. 

The various stories connect in a way that is both satisfying and rewarding, and there is something to attract all and any horror fans.  There are manifestations, monsters, diabolical possessions, magical incantations, ghosts and even an episode that evokes Jack the Ripper although not by name.  My favourite is a randy supernatural invader who leaves sceptic love bites on his female victims. Now that is something to get your teeth into.  The idea of secrets being discovered during work being done to remove asbestos from Dubbs House is a clever idea, and a reminder of another horror humans unwittingly invited.

 

By Howard Jackson